Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel in Japan. For those with any familiarity with Japanese cuisine, you’ll recognise it as one of the toppings available at sushi restaurants. But, there are also entire restaurants specialising in serving just grilled unagi!
Hitsumabushi - image © Florentyna Leow
Dig even just a little into unagi in Japan and you’ll find two culinary camps: Kanto-style and Kansai-style. What’s the difference between these two? Kanto-style (East Japan) sees the eel being sliced open along the back and steamed prior to grilling, giving it a more tender texture. In West Japan or Kansai, they dispense with the steaming altogether. The eel is sliced along the belly and grilled immediately, rendering it beautifully crispy on the outside.
Osaka eel restaurants serve unagi mainly in the Kansai-style. Eel isn’t the cheapest meal around. It’s a little more expensive than your average meal in Osaka, and given the dwindling supplies of unagi from overfishing, an above-average meal of eel will set you back at least JPY3,000. So if you’re going to eat some eel, it may as well be good. We’ve put together a list of some unagi restaurants that are definitely way better than average!
- Yoshitora (Central Osaka; moderate)
On the east side of Honmachi, in the direction of Osaka Castle, this hidden unagi (eel) specialist is a great place to try sublime unagi in refined and relaxing surroundings. It’s a good idea to have a Japanese speaker call in advance for reservations and to place the order. It’s down a small private walkway.
- Nishihara (Osaka Castle Area; moderate)
A short walk east of Osaka Castle Park, this unagi (eel) specialist serves a mouth-watering version of this classic Japanese dish.
- Unagiya (Shin-Osaka Area; moderate)
It takes a bit of courage to enter this traditional unagi (eel) restaurant a few minutes’ walk southwest of Shin-Osaka Station, but it’s worth it: the unagi here is sublime. Expect to pay around Y3,500. Look for the blue noren curtain.
- Honke Shibato (Central; moderate to expensive)
Unagi set meals at Koraibashi’s 300 year-old Honke Shibato don’t come cheap, but it’s a meal that’s worth splashing out on.
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Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- Get a prepaid Icoca card to make travelling around Osaka easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world